I am trying to get into couponing because we need to save money, but I'm going crazy trying to figure everything out. I have been cutting coupons every week and putting them in a binder like I've seen other people do. But I spend hours keeping track of everything and I still don't think I'm saving as much as I could be. There has to be an easier way. — Jackie A.
Dear Jackie — Rest assured, there is a much easier way to shop with coupons. The moment I really started loving coupons was the moment I stopped cutting all of them out of the newspaper the moment it arrived.
I've also never been a fan of carrying a coupon binder, so I don't. But I'm still saving money and spending less than an hour a week organizing my grocery list and coupons.
I use a "clipless" method of couponing, meaning I literally clip less. Cutting only what you need for the current week is the fastest and easiest way to use coupons.
To get started, stop thinking that you have to cut out every coupon you find. If that's your typical method, ask yourself, do you ever use all of the coupons that you cut? You probably don't. At the end of every month, you probably spend time weeding unused and expired coupons out of your file or binder.
Instead of cutting coupons, save the entire coupon insert the week it arrives, and only cut the coupons you need for this week's shopping trip. This is the easiest way to match coupons to sales.
How do you know what coupons to use this week? Head online. There are many grocery list match-up sites that make it easy to match your coupons to local sales. These sites provide a list of all products on sale at your store, with lists of the best, least-expensive buys. The sites also tell you exactly which coupons to use to reduce low sale prices even more. When you spot an item you want, find that coupon insert and cut the coupon. After you're finished, you'll have a small stack of coupons that match the items you plan to buy this week — no more, no less.
Keep in mind that grocery list match-up sites reference the coupons in your inserts by date and name. If a coupon for cereal is located in the April 1 RedPlum insert, the list might say, "$1 off: 4/1 RP." When my coupon inserts arrive, I like to note the date big up top. Then, I keep all of the inserts in an accordion file, one pocket for each month.
When I'm ready to plan my shopping trip, I go to a grocery list match-up site. It takes about 10 minutes to select the items I want to buy. I print my list, and then I go to my coupon file and pull out every insert that matches an item on my list. I cut those coupons, then return each insert to the file. This usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how many items I'm buying.Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.